09 June 2018

from The Family From One End Street, chapter I, The Christenings (Eve Garnett)

Twin boys came next, and Mr. Ruggles, who had called at the Vicarage to ask for kind assistance in clothing his sons, only one having been expected, spent the Sunday after their arrival in church.  This was partly in order to be out of the way of the fuss at home which the twins' arrival had caused, and partly as a kind of compliment to the Vicar's wife who had been so obliging in the matter of extra baby clothes.  For Mr. Ruggles was not an ardent church goer, and it had crossed his mind on the Vicarage door-step that his last attendance had been the Harvest Festival held several months previously.

Although he knelt, stood, and sat down with the congregation, Mr. Ruggles found it hard to keep his attention on the service, for his mind was busy with many things.  At the present moment the Twins filled most of it, but one corner, his gardening corner, was very much occupied with the progress of his spring vegetables and how it was that Mr. Hook at No. 2 One End Street was so much farther on with his leeks and carrots.  Then there was the problem of whether one or two more hens could be squeezed into the soap-box.  If the family was going to increase at the present rate, thought Mr. Ruggles, the more he could produce in the food line at home the better.  And then, always, of course, there was the Question of the Pig.  Here Jo gave himself up to a few moments happy dreaming ... Surely, in that corner between the hen-box and the little tool-shed, there was room enough for a small sty; he could take in a bit of the flower border and Rosie could have her clothes line a few inches shorter - come to that, he might even pull down the tool-shed altogether and keep his tools in the kitchen, though no doubt Rosie would object.  Anyway, with twins in the house, it was high time the Pig Question was really considered seriously.   There was a fleeting vision of the Sanitary Inspector, but it was of the briefest, and as the congregation sat down for the Second Lesson, hens, vegetables, and twins once more filled Mr. Ruggles' mind.

'Now the names of the twelve apostles are these,' read the Vicar.

Jo pricked up his ears.  Names.  There was another problem.  Rosie had been very quiet about names this time.  He'd said nothing himself, but he was sure she'd something up her sleeve - he believed she'd never quite forgiven him over that Carnation business and Kate.  It looked as if he ought to let her have some say in the matter this time, but, really, he drew the line at fancy and flowery names for boys,  and they would be fancy or flowery if Rosie had a hand in it he was sure.

'Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother,' read the Vicar, 'James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew ...'

'Seem to go in pairs-like,' said Jo to himself.  It seemed encouraging.  'Better pick two of these and get it over,' he thought, but the Vicar was reading on, and the next thing Jo caught was about a workman being worthy of his meat and that, too, he felt, was singularly appropriate and hoped his Sunday dinner would be a good one!  Then, as if an idea had suddenly struck him, he seized a prayer book from the ledge in front of him, and, after wetting his finger and rustling many pages found the place he wanted, he pulled a stub of pencil from his pocket, held it poised over the list of the apostles, shut his eyes and brought it down 'plop!'  James and John.  Jo breathed a sigh of relief - he'd been very afraid of Philip and Bartholomew - especially Bartholomew.  'That decides it,' he muttered, and Mrs. Chips, the grocer's wife, sitting resplendent in sapphire blue velvet in the farthest corner of the pew so that no one by any possible chance should think they were friends (so great is the gulf between grocery and scavenging), turned a stern and reproving eye on him.  But Mr. Ruggles was oblivious; a problem was solved, and his mind made up for him - a labour-saving device he much appreciated.  The Twins' names were settled, and he would slip round to the vestry immediately after the service and arrange for the christening.

24 December 2017

The King's Breakfast (A.A. Milne)

The King asked
The Queen, and
The Queen asked
The Dairymaid:
'Could we have some butter for
The Royal slice of bread?'
The Queen asked
The Dairymaid,
The Dairymaid
Said, 'Certainly,
I'll go and tell the cow
Before she goes to bed.'

The Dairymaid
She curtsied,
And went and told
The Alderney:
'Don't forget the butter for
The Royal slice of bread.'
The Alderney
Said sleepily:
'You'd better tell
His Majesty
That many people nowadays
Like marmalade

The Dairymaid
Said 'Fancy!'
And went to
Her Majesty.
She curtsied to the Queen, and
She turned a little red:
'Excuse me,
Your Majesty,
For taking of
The liberty,
But marmalade is tasty, if
It's very

The Queen said
And went to
His Majesty:
'Talking of the butter for
The Royal slice of bread,
Many people
Think that
Is nicer.
Would you like to try a little

The King said,
And then he said,
'Oh, deary me!'
The King sobbed, 'Oh, deary me!'
And went back to bed.
He whimpered,
'Could call me
A fussy man;
I only want
A little bit
Of butter for
My bread!'

The Queen said,
'There, there!'
And went to
The Dairymaid.
The Dairymaid
'There, there!'
And went to the shed.
The cow said,
'There, there!
I didn't really
Mean it;
Here's milk for his porringer,
And butter for his bread.'

The Queen took
The butter
And brought it to
His Majesty;
The King said,
'Butter, eh?'
And bounced out of bed.
'Nobody,' he said,
As he kissed her
'Nobody,' he said,
As he slid down
The banisters,
My darling,
Could call me
A fussy man -
I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!'

Bright College Days (Tom Lehrer)

Bright college days, oh carefree days that fly, 
To thee we sing with our glasses raised on high.
Let's drink a toast as each of us recalls
Ivy-covered professors in ivy-covered halls.

Turn on the spigot,
Pour the beer and swig it,
And gaudeamus igit-uh-tur!

Here's to parties we tossed,
To the games that we lost
(We shall claim that we won them some day),

To the girls young and sweet,
To the spacious back seat
Of our roommate's beat up Chevrolet,

To the beer and benzedrine,
To the way that the dean
Tried so hard to be pals with us all,

To excuses we fibbed,
To the papers we cribbed
From the genius who lived down the hall,

To the tables down at Morey's
(Wherever that may be) -
Let us drink a toast to all we love the best.
We will sleep through all the lectures
And cheat on the exams,
And we'll pass, and be forgotten with the rest.

Soon we'll be out amid the cold world's strife,
Soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life ...

But as we go our sordid sep'rate ways,
We shall ne'er forget thee, thou golden college days.

Hearts full of youth!
Hearts full of truth!
Six parts gin to one part vermouth!

22 October 2017

from My Ántonia, book III, Lena Lingard, chapter II

I propped my book open and stared listlessly at the page of the 'Georgics' where to-morrow's lesson began. It opened with the melancholy reflection that, in the lives of mortals, the best days are the first to flee. 'Optima dies . . . prima fugit.' I turned back to the beginning of the third book, which we had read in class that morning. 'Primus ego in patriam mecum . . . deducam Musas'; 'for I shall be the first, if I live, to bring the Muse into my country.' Cleric had explained to us that 'patria' here meant, not a nation or even a province, but the little rural neighbourhood on the Mincio where the poet was born. This was not a boast, but a hope, at once bold and devoutly humble, that he might bring the Muse (but lately come to Italy from her cloudy Grecian mountains), not to the capital, the palatia Romana, but to his own little 'country'; to his father's fields, 'sloping down to the river and to the old beech trees with broken tops.'

Cleric said he thought Virgil, when he was dying at Brindisi, must have remembered that passage. After he had faced the bitter fact that he was to leave the 'Aeneid' unfinished, and had decreed that the great canvas, crowded with figures of gods and men, should be burned rather than survive him unperfected, then his mind must have gone back to the perfect utterance of the 'Georgics,' where the pen was fitted to the matter as the plough is to the furrow; and he must have said to himself, with the thankfulness of a good man, 'I was the first to bring the Muse into my country.'

We left the classroom quietly, conscious that we had been brushed by the wing of a great feeling, though perhaps I alone knew Cleric intimately enough to guess what that feeling was.  In the evening, as I sat staring at my book, the fervour of his voice stirred through the quantities on the page before  me. I was wondering whether that particular rocky strip of New England coast about which he had so often told me was Cleric's patria.  Before I had got far with my reading, I was disturbed by a knock. I hurried to the door and when I opened it saw a woman standing in the dark hall.

21 August 2017

from The Sea, The Sea, History, chapter 3 (Iris Murdoch)

'We are such inward secret creatures, that inwardness is the most amazing thing about us, even more amazing than our reason.  But we cannot just walk into the cavern and look around.  Most of what we think we know about our minds is pseudo-knowledge.  We are all such shocking poseurs, so good at inflating the importance of what we think we value.  The heroes at Troy fought for a phantom Helen, according to Stesichorus.   Vain wars for phantom goods.  I hope you will allow yourself plenty of reflections on human vanity.  People lie so, even we old men do.  Though in a way, if there is art enough it doesn't matter, since there is another kind of truth in the art.  Proust is our authority on French aristocrats.  Who cares what they were really like?  What does it mean even?'

'I should say it meant something simple and obvious, but then I am no philosopher!  And I should say that it mattered too.  It matters to the historian, it even mattters to the critic.'  Nor did I care for 'we old men'.  Speak for yourself, cousin.

'Does it signify what really happened to Lawrence at Déraa?  If even a dog's tooth is truly worshipped it glows with light.  The venerated object is endowed with power, that is the simple sense of the ontological proof.  And if there is art enough a lie can enlighten us as well as the truth.  What is the truth anyway, that truth?  As we know ourselves we are fake objects, fakes, bundles of illusions.  Can you determine exactly what you felt or thought or did?  We have to pretend in law courts that such things can be done, but that is just a matter of convenience.  Well, well, it doesn't signify.  I must come and see your seaside house and your birds.  Are there gannets?'

from The Young Visiters, chapter 9, A Proposale (Daisy Ashford)

Next morning while imbibing his morning tea beneath his pink silken quilt Bernard decided he must marry Ethel with no more delay. I love the girl he said to himself and she must be mine but I somehow feel I can not propose in London it would not be seemly in the city of London. We must go for a day in the country and when surrounded by the gay twittering of the birds and the smell of the cows I will lay my suit at her feet and he waved his arm wildly at the gay thought. Then he sprang from bed and gave a rat tat at Ethels door.
Are you up my dear he called.

Well not quite said Ethel hastilly jumping from her downy nest.

Be quick cried Bernard I have a plan to spend a day near Windsor Castle and we will take our lunch and spend a happy day.

Oh Hurrah shouted Ethel I shall soon be ready as I had my bath last night so wont wash very much now.

No dont said Bernard and added in a rarther fervent tone through the chink of the door you are fresher than the rose my dear no soap could make you fairer.

Then he dashed off very embarrased to dress. Ethel blushed and felt a bit excited as she heard the words and she put on a new white muslin dress in a fit of high spirits. She looked very beautifull with some red roses in her hat and the dainty red ruge in her cheeks looked quite the thing. Bernard heaved a sigh and his eyes flashed as he beheld her and Ethel thorght to herself what a fine type of manhood he reprisented with his nice thin legs in pale broun trousers and well fitting spats and a red rose in his button hole and rarther a sporting cap which gave him a great air with its quaint check and little flaps to pull down if necesarry. Off they started the envy of all the waiters.

They arrived at Windsor very hot from the jorney and Bernard at once hired a boat to row his beloved up the river. Ethel could not row but she much enjoyed seeing the tough sunburnt arms of Bernard tugging at the oars as she lay among the rich cushons of the dainty boat. She had a rarther lazy nature but Bernard did not know of this. However he soon got dog tired and sugested lunch by the mossy bank.

Oh yes said Ethel quickly opening the sparkling champaigne.

Dont spill any cried Bernard as he carved some chicken.

They eat and drank deeply of the charming viands ending up with merangs and choclates.

Let us now bask under the spreading trees said Bernard in a passiunate tone.

Oh yes lets said Ethel and she opened her dainty parasole and sank down upon the long green grass. She closed her eyes but she was far from asleep. Bernard sat beside her in profound silence gazing at her pink face and long wavy eye lashes. He puffed at his pipe for some moments while the larks gaily caroled in the blue sky. Then he edged a trifle closer to Ethels form.

Ethel he murmured in a trembly voice.

Oh what is it said Ethel hastily sitting up.

Words fail me ejaculated Bernard horsly my passion for you is intense he added fervently. It has grown day and night since I first beheld you.

Oh said Ethel in supprise I am not prepared for this and she lent back against the trunk of the tree.

Bernard placed one arm tightly round her. When will you marry me Ethel he uttered you must be my wife it has come to that I love you so intensly that if you say no I shall perforce dash my body to the brink of yon muddy river he panted wildly.

Oh dont do that implored Ethel breathing rarther hard.

Then say you love me he cried.

Oh Bernard she sighed fervently I certinly love you madly you are to me like a Heathen god she cried looking at his manly form and handsome flashing face I will indeed marry you.

How soon gasped Bernard gazing at her intensly.

As soon as possible said Ethel gently closing her eyes.

My Darling whispered Bernard and he seiezed her in his arms we will be marrid next week.

Oh Bernard muttered Ethel this is so sudden.

No no cried Bernard and taking the bull by both horns he kissed her violently on her dainty face. My bride to be he murmered several times.

Ethel trembled with joy as she heard the mistick words.

Oh Bernard she said little did I ever dream of such as this and she suddenly fainted into his out stretched arms.

Oh I say gasped Bernard and laying the dainty burden on the grass he dashed to the waters edge and got a cup full of the fragrant river to pour on his true loves pallid brow.

She soon came to and looked up with a sickly smile Take me back to the Gaierty hotel she whispered faintly.

With plesure my darling said Bernard I will just pack up our viands ere I unloose the boat.

Ethel felt better after a few drops of champagne and began to tidy her hair while Bernard packed the remains of the food. Then arm in arm they tottered to the boat.

I trust you have not got an illness my darling murmured Bernard as he helped her in.

Oh no I am very strong said Ethel I fainted from joy she added to explain matters.

Oh I see said Bernard handing her a cushon well some people do he added kindly and so saying they rowed down the dark stream now flowing silently beneath a golden moon. All was silent as the lovers glided home with joy in their hearts and radiunce on their faces only the sound of the mystearious water lapping against the frail vessel broke the monotony of the night.

So I will end my chapter.

09 June 2017

from Clover, chapter VII, Making Acquaintance (Susan Coolidge)

The sun was very hot; but there was a delicious breeze, and the dryness and elasticity of the air made the heat easy to bear.

The way lay across and down the southern slope of the plateau on which the town was built. Then they came to splendid fields of grain and 'afalfa, - a cereal quite new to them, with broad, very green leaves. The roadside was gay with flowers, - gillias and mountain balm; high pink and purple spikes, like foxgloves, which they were told were pentstemons; painters' brush, whose green tips seemed dipped in liquid vermilion, and masses of the splendid wild poppies. They crossed a foaming little river; and a sharp turn brought them into a narrower and wilder road, which ran straight toward the mountain side. This was overhung by trees, whose shade was grateful after the hot sun.

Narrower and narrower grew the road, more and more sharp the turns. They were at the entrance of a deep defile, up which the road wound and wound, following the links of the river, which they crossed and recrossed repeatedly. Such a wonderful and perfect little river, with water clear as air and cold as ice, flowing over a bed of smooth granite, here slipping noiselessly down long slopes of rock like thin films of glass, there deepening into pools of translucent blue-green like aqua-marine or beryl, again plunging down in mimic waterfalls, a sheet of iridescent foam. The sound of its rush and its ripple was like a laugh. Never was such happy water, Clover thought, as it curved and bent and swayed this way and that on its downward course as if moved by some merry, capricious instinct, like a child dancing as it goes. Regiments or great ferns grew along its banks, and immense thickets of wild roses of all shades, from deep Jacqueminot red to pale blush-white. Here and there rose a lonely spike of yucca, and in the little ravines to right and left grew in the crevices of the rocks clumps of superb straw-colored columbines four feet high.

Looking up, Clover saw above the tree-tops strange pinnacles and spires and obelisks which seemed air-hung, of purple-red and orange-tawny and pale pinkish gray and terra cotta, in which the sunshine and the cloud-shadows broke in a multiplicity of wonderful half-tints. Above them was the dazzling blue of the Colorado sky. She drew a long, long breath.

'So this is a canyon,' she said. 'How glad I am that I have lived to see one.'

21 March 2017

from The Human Not-Quite-Human (Dorothy L. Sayers)

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man - there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as 'The women, God help us!' or 'The ladies, God bless them!'; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything 'funny' about woman's nature.

05 February 2017

from Confusion (Elizabeth Jane Howard)

She had thought that a weight would be lifted once she had got into the train with the visit behind her, but the pall of boredom and irritation was quenched now only by guilt, as she thought of all the ways in which she might have given her mother more pleasure, been kinder, nicer, more patient.  Why was it that, in spite of all these years during which she felt that she had grown from being a spoiled and selfish girl into a thoroughly grown-up wife and mother and reponsible member of a large family, she had only to be with her mother for a few minutes to revert to her earlier, disagreeable self?  It was her behaviour, after all, that made her mother so timid and conciliatory, made her, in fact, everything that she, Zoë, found most exasperating.